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Chris Christie - rut roh
Texts, e-mails suggest political vendetta in NJ bridge controversy
By Jake Tapper, CNN
updated 1:07 PM EST, Wed January 8, 2014
Top aides to Gov. Chris Christie communicate about lane closures to George Washington Bridge
The lanes were closed in September tying up traffic on New Jersey side of busy bridge
Christie has insisted he knew nothing about any political vendetta
(CNN) -- E-mails emerged on Wednesday purportedly from top aides to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie bolstering the case that access lane closures to the George Washington Bridge were borne from a political vendetta against opponents of the governor, and were not the result of an incompetent traffic study as his administration claimed.
"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's deputy chief of staff for legislative and intergovernmental affairs, e-mailed David Wildstein, then the highest-level political appointee representing the state at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
That communication occurred roughly three weeks before the access lanes were closed last September, wreaking havoc on traffic from the New Jersey side of the nation's busiest bridge that crosses into New York.
What did Christie know about closed lanes?
Read the e-mails
"Got it," Wildstein replied.
CNN obtained the e-mails but none of those cited in this report responded for comment to confirm their veracity.
Democrats have alleged the lane closures were revenge against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for not endorsing Christie in his re-election effort, and the e-mails and text messages provide some evidence for that suspicion.
Christie's office could not be reached for comment, but the Governor has insisted he knew nothing about any political vendetta.
At a press conference last month, Christie said he could only repeat what his appointee, Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni, "has said publicly and to everybody in this office, which is they believed the traffic study was necessary and that they ordered it, but the way they did it was mistaken and they didn't follow protocols."
Christie announced at that time Baroni would leave the job, which he has. Wildstein resigned in December when the scandal started to get some notice.
On the first morning of the lane closures, in response to a phone message from Sokolich regarding an "urgent matter of public safety in Fort Lee," Kelly asked Wildstein if the Mayor's call had been returned.
Wildstein wrote to Kelly: "Radio silence. His name comes right after mayor Fulop." Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, a Democrat who also didn't endorse Christie.
Fulop claimed this week his decision was met on the same very day with news that New Jersey Cabinet and other high ranking officials were canceling meetings with him, and that a pension reform bill he had worked on was scuttled by a Democrat who had endorsed the Governor.
On the second day of the lane closures, at 8:04 am, Sokolich sent a text to Baroni. "Presently we have four very busy traffic lanes merging into only one toll booth. ... The bigger problem is getting kids to school. Help please. It's maddening."
Seeing that text, a person whose name has been redacted from the e-mails and text messages writes to Wildstein: "Is it wrong that I am smiling?"
"No," Wildstein responds.
"I feel badly about the kids," the unknown person writes.
"I guess," he or she adds a minute later.
Responds Wildstein: "They are the children of Buono voters."
Barbara Buono was Christie's Democratic opponent in the gubernatorial election that the governor won handily in November.
On September 13, Wildstein wrote to Kelly that the New York side of the bridge gave "Fort Lee back all three lanes this morning. We are appropriately going nuts. Samson helping us to retaliate."
David Samson chairs the Port Authority's Board of Commissioners and is a close Christie ally.
"We should talk," Sokolich wrote on September 17 to Wildstein, "Someone needs to tell me that the recent traffic debacle was not punitive in nature. The last four reporters that contacted me suggest that the people they are speaking with absolutely believe it to be punishment. Try as I may to dispel these rumors I am having a tough time. A private face-to-face would be important to me. Perhaps someone can enlighten me as to the errors of my ways. Let me know if you'll give me 10 minutes. Regards, Mark."
Other documents raise questions, too
Wildstein sent the texts to Baroni.
"Have not heard back from Bridget," Wildstein noted.
"Fck," Baroni wrote back.
The next day, September 18, Wildstein e-mailed Bill Stepien, Christie's campaign manager, forwarding him a story from the Wall Street Journal titled "Bridge Jam's Cause a Mystery."
"I have empty boxes ready to take to work today, just in case," Wildstein wrote, an apparent reference to being fired. "It will be a tough November for this little Serbian," an apparent reference to Mayor Sokolich.
On October 3, Baroni asks Wildstein what the "Trenton feedback" is. Trenton is the capital of New Jersey and where Christie's headquarters are.
"Good," Wildstein wrote.
"Just good?" Baroni wrote. "Shit."
"No I have only texted brudget (sic) and Nicole they were VERY happy," Wildstein responded. "Both said you are doing great. Charlie said you did GREAT."
The Port Authority, which is run jointly by New Jersey and New York, oversees the tunnels, bridges and seaports between the two states, as well as the metropolitan area's airports.
It's going to be interesting to see if conservative media decides to turn on the spigot for Christie's cause - or throw him under the bus. They haven't been too happy with him anyway. I imagine Roger Ailes is having some pretty intense meetings about this right now.